Editor’s note: Sporting Pumpkin will have additional coverage next week leading up to Westfall’s return to the Division II state tournament.
By Brad Morris
When it came to meeting the challenge of the back nine holes of the Pickaway Country Club on Monday, Westfall coach Jonathan Barker believed that preparation made the difference.
“The girls asked for a pep talk before we started our round today and I told them it isn’t who performs on that particular day, but who has better prepared for that day,” he said. “There were some good teams here today that work hard, but I know that no one has outworked our girls this season, because they are on the course every single day and doing the little things that are needed to be successful.”
The Mustangs used their consistent play to defeat Pickaway County rival Circleville for the third time this season on their way to winning the Division II Southeast District championship with a team score of 357 and qualifying for the state tournament.
“This was the last go around for Maddie and me, so we definitely wanted to get back to state,” Westfall senior Emily Cook said. “I’m really happy for our younger players who will get to experience playing at Ohio State for the first time. It’s a great experience.”
The Tigers followed 15 strokes behind the Mustangs to take district runner-up honors with a 372 and Gallia Academy finished third in the 10-school field with 384.
“We’re disappointed, because we felt like we had a good chance coming into districts, but I have to give Westfall a lot of credit. Their kids hung in there and were really consistent today,” Circleville coach Eric Evans said. “Really, that’s been their entire story all season. They are a really consistent team and will be a great representative for the Southeast District at the state tournament.”
Westfall previously defeated Circleville by one stroke last month in the Pickaway County championship and by a single stroke again last week in a sectional tournament.
“We enjoy competing against Circleville, because they have a good team and we both take it to another level when we play against each other,” Emily Cook said. “It’s a friendly and competitive rivalry and it feels great to beat them again and get to go to the state tournament.”
It appeared the third meeting would also produce drama all the way to the final hole, as the Mustangs held a four-stroke lead (172-176) over the Tigers after the front nine holes. Instead, the Mustangs pulled away on the back nine by 11 strokes (185-196) to earn their first state tournament trip since 2020 and fifth in program history.
“The success that the girls had on the back nine goes back to all the preparation that no one else sees of playing a lot of extra rounds and developing the mental and physical toughness that it takes to play 18 holes,” Barker said. “At some point during a round, there is going to be a tough shot or tough hole that every golfer has. It’s about how that golfer responds to that adversity that makes the difference.”
Senior Maddie Cook believes the tough non-conference schedule and courses that the Mustangs played helped to make the difference on Monday during the district tournament.
“We played some pretty good Division I and Division II teams from Columbus earlier this season. We lost to a couple of them, but we beat most of them and those were some tough matches that pushed us and made us better,” she said. “Playing those tougher courses also helped us today with playing the back nine, which everyone agrees is the toughest part of the course here, and especially with some of the longer par fives.”
Emily Cook finished as runner-up medalist with a scorecard of 82 (40-42), sharing the honors with Gallia Academy senior Maddi Meadows (42-40).
Crooksville senior Riley McKenzie was the district medalist and earned the individual qualifying spot to the state tournament with a round of 81 (36-45).
Maddie Cook followed with an 89 (42-47), Paige Weiss fired a round of 90 (46-44) and Marianna Packer shot 96 (44-52). Alexa Oney also played for the Mustangs and had 103 (48-55).
Barker credited the consistent play and leadership from Emily and Maddie Cook and also discussed the overall strength of the Mustangs.
“It helped us having their experience and leadership of playing in these situations and having success. Emily and Maddie played on two previous state tournament teams here at Westfall,” he said. “Emily and Maddie were both steady again today and then Paige got stronger as the day went on and had a nice back nine.
“People view golf as an individual game, but there is also a team component to it and to have the success that we’ve had this season has taken everyone. When someone has a tough day, a teammate is there to pick that person up.”
Elaina Seeley shot an 85 (40-45) to pace the Tigers, Izzy Seeley had 92 (42-50), Isabelle Perini turned in a scorecard of 94 (47-47) and Lexy Sharp finished with 101 (47-54). Claire Barthelmas also played for the Tigers and shot 126 (62-64).
Evans reflected on the contributions that Sharp and Barthelmas made in their senior seasons.
“Lexy and Claire are tremendous people and you couldn’t ask for two better young women to represent a program and help to lead the program,” he said. “They both played well at different points this season and we are really going to miss them.”
The Tigers won the Mid-State League Buckeye Division championship and finished as a district runner-up both for the first time in program history this season. With their top three scorers on Monday slated to return for next season, Evans believes the best days are yet to come for the program.
“I couldn’t be prouder of everything these girls have accomplished this season and taking Circleville girls golf to new heights,” he said. “I’m excited about the potential that we have for next season, with our top three scores from today back and the experience that we gained today of competing for a district championship.
“We fell short today, but we’ll get back to work in the offseason and hopefully finish it off next season.”
The Mustangs are slated to travel to The Ohio State University Gray Golf Course on Oct. 14-15 for the state tournament.
“We’ll celebrate this achievement, but our girls know that we’re not done yet,” Barker said. “We’ll get back to work this week and start preparing for the state tournament.”
View complete results from the Division II Southeast District tournament
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